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Sally Albright meets Harry Burns when the two of them drive from college at the University of Chicago to New York City to start their new lives. They spend the trip bickering like an old married couple. Their main point of contention? Harry's belief that men and women can't be friends because sex will always get in the way. Sally begs to differ. After eighteen hours in a yellow station wagon, they part ways in Greenwich Village.
"Have a nice life!"
Five years later, Sally's boyfriend is seeing her off at the airport. They run into Harry, who's on Sally's flight. While traveling, Harry and Sally get to talking—okay, bickering—about Harry's confirmed belief that men and women can't be friends, mainly, before parting ways once again…
… until five years later, when they run into each other at a bookstore. Newly divorced, Harry seems a bit sadder, but also a bit nicer. He and Sally get to talking; she just ended her relationship, too. They agree to become friends. And they do.
They live the ultimate friendship for a while: they can say anything to each other. They watch TV together over the phone. Harry helps Sally get a Christmas tree. They karaoke together. Basically, they're everyone's dream besties.
That is, until they sleep together.
Yeah, that doesn't go so well. The morning after, Harry bails, a bit freaked, and Sally's clearly hurt. The two don't talk for weeks, finally reuniting at their friends' wedding, where they get into a knockdown, drag-out, Sally-slaps-Harry fight. Looks like Harry was right—men and women can't be friends, because sex will always get in the way. Best friendship: kaput.
Harry calls Sally, oh, a dozen times. He wants to apologize, but she just won't pick up the stinkin' phone. When she finally does, he invites her to be his date on New Year's, but she says no dice: "I'm not your consolation prize."
Cut to New Year's Eve. Harry's alone, and pretending he's not miserable. Sally's out with her friends and not even bothering to pretend she's not miserable. As he meanders through the empty streets of New York, Harry realizes something: he's in love with Sally.
He rushes to the party, and just as the clock strikes midnight, the two reunite. Harry gives her the skinny: he loves her, he wants to be with her, and that's that. After a wee bit of protesting, Sally returns his affections and the two kiss—like ya do at the end of a rom com.
No more hemming and hawing. These two get their happily ever after.